Art is Smart
"I don’t think I would have become President if it had not been for school music."
—President Bill Clinton
Your high schooler is becoming independent and will leave home all too soon. These days, he’s trying to figure out who he is as an individual while also fitting into the larger community. The prospect of playing a role in this community entails worrying about what he’s interested in, what he’s good at, how to make a living, plus what the meaning of life is in general. Very big, very difficult issues. No wonder kids are moody, friendly, hostile, dependent, independent, angry; sometimes, it seems, all at the same time.
Research finds that the arts can be a vital tool for success in high school because they provide positive, enjoyable, creative pathways for teenagers to express their feelings and ideas. This is particularly important at an age when kids are worried about the future and feeling conflicted about many intractable issues, particularly dependence/independence.
Given that, here’s why arts education matters, especially in high school:
- The arts help teens enjoy—and stay in—school. Arts keep students engaged in school life. Students can take the skills learned from their arts experiences — discipline, patience, problem-solving—and apply them throughout their lives.
- Taking classes in the arts helps teens graduate on time. For example, a recent report from the Center for Arts Education found that New York City high schools with the most access to—and support for — arts education have the city’s highest graduation rates.
- Arts education can be a gateway to the future. Arts-related businesses, especially in urban areas, provide jobs in creative fields ranging from advertising and video game design to fashion and theater management. The creative sector needs more than just artists, too— it needs accountants, marketers, computer technicians, lawyers, and many others.
- The arts can help in applying to college. The College Board has found that students who take classes in the arts for four years in high school scored substantially higher on the SATs than students with six months or less training in the arts.
In addition, you have the power to help your teen get the most out of his/her arts education. So, if your child wants to attend a high school with a committed arts program, here are some ways you can help:
Research possible high schools by…
- Calling your local Department of Education to see if any high schools offer a concentration in the arts.
- Attending school tours and open houses to see schools and meet the faculty. Look for displays of student artwork and study the schedule of annual events. Does the school take pride in its students’ work and exhibit it?
Ask high school representatives…
- What art courses does the school offer? How many, what types, and how often?
- Does the school have a budget for art supplies and teaching materials?
- Does the school partner with local arts groups? If so, with which arts? How many hours of instruction do they provide?
- What afterschool arts activities are offered?
- Are there regularly-scheduled field trips to concerts, plays, dance programs, or art exhibitions?
Make your voice heard about the importance of the arts. In the words of Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, “The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem-solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.”